How to Engage a Meaningful Mentorship

Today’s post is from guest blogger Heather Kinzie.

Heather KinzieHeather has been a Human Resources professional for nearly 20 years.  She likes to make things better so she develops/presents training courses and facilitates team/process/strategy improvement events.  Her clients benefit from her expertise and her insight but moreover, they appreciate her pragmatic and often brutally honest thoughts, concerns and suggestions.  Heather comes with tons of energy and laughter, but she also comes with quirks, truth and the occasional storm of swear words. :)

A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.  -Chinese Proverb

I’ve been lucky.  I have had a professional mentor for nearly 18 years.

We met consistently…he mentoring me…for the first three to four years.  But then our relationship took on a reciprocal element where either would take the lead.


I’ve mentored many others during my career, and am proud and grateful for the opportunity because I’ve received as much, if not more, from the people I’ve mentored as they have received from me.

I don’t think US organizations use mentoring enough.  As we continue to fight in the “war on talent,” we are identifying internal employees who have the capability to “grow” into more demanding positions.  However, we are then challenged with “now what?”  We have identified a potential leader, expert, manager, etc. but we don’t quite know what to do with them.   So what do we do?  We send the “selected” employees back to school, to training courses, to leadership camps, etc.

Dare I shoot myself in the foot, as my business depends on clients that need formalized training, but I assert that mentorships are a better investment.

Wait?  What? Why?

Regardless of how amazing traditional training can be, it is not “real.”

Mentorships are “real” – they are “real time,” “real life” and really helpful.

Good trainers, including myself, can only offer “real time” and “real life” to a certain extent when presenting traditional training courses.

Mentorships, on the other hand, allow the mentee to seek guidance and counsel on targeted issues affecting his/her work and life in the momentjust in time.

Likewise, a mentor, because he/she knows the mentee personally or professionally, can tailor his/her guidance accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, good trainers can be really helpful!  We offer pragmatic advice, practical insights and processes.  We inspire people to think for themselves.

However, regardless of how good we are, we are all “one hit wonders” – and unless our clients seek continued involvement in our courses or additional coaching, we lose the ability to affect their future.

Mentorships are continual and hence, they evolve when needed. In addition, they offer the following:

  • Broadened perspectives
  • Gain of “realistic” views of the organization, the team, etc.
  • Increased self-awareness (of both strengths and areas for improvement)
  • Increased flow of ideas
  • Increased self-esteem and confidence
  • Increased ability to take risks, challenge oneself, etc.
  • Increased energy and interest in work and community
  • Heightened understanding of the organization’s vision, mission, values and culture
  • Expanded and enhanced professional network


You may be wondering, “how do I engage in a mentorship?”  Believe it or not, many don’t have the courage to ask or to offer.  Perhaps these simple steps can help.

  1. Identify what you need or identify what you can offer
  2. Identify who can be your mentor or identify who might benefit from being your mentee
  3. Identify what’s in it for both parties (be prepared to communicate the mutual benefits of developing a mentorship)
  4. Ask or offer.  (Don’t make this harder than it is; simply communicate the answers above!)


Once the agreement is made,

  1. Define the relationship (what are the expectations of both parties regarding things like sharing of information, confidentiality, commitment, accountability, etc.)
  2. Identify the goals
  3. Identify the “interaction” parameters (how often will you interact, how will you interact, etc.)
  4. Get started!

Engaging a Meaningful Mentorship

Remember, mentorships are about guidance, counsel, sponsorships and/or support.  If you let these overarching objectives guide the conversation, you’ll soon find the relationship is well worth the effort!



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